Report: High-End, Niche Beauty Brands Experience Growth During the Pandemic, While Smaller Companies Are Forced to Downsize

June 10, 2021
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engage - Beauty industry report 2021

The Covid19 pandemic has had a huge impact on all industries, and beauty and cosmetics are definitely no exception. As lockdowns, masks, and remote work took the world by storm in 2020, sales of makeup-related products dropped dramatically, across the globe. What’s more, brands had to quickly adapt to the new normal and focus all of their efforts on digital, as in-store sales dwindled considerably. However, some sub-segments of the beauty industry managed to survive, and even thrive, throughout these unprecedented times.

Beauty brands, forced to shift their focus in 2020 

As brick-and-mortars closed shop and sales of makeup and cosmetics crashed in the spring of 2020, companies in the beauty industry were forced to rethink their strategies. Many of them shifted focus to delivering hygiene-related products, including masks and hand sanitizers, and even providing these items to healthcare workers and institutions. 

As France went into lockdown in March 2020, sales of luxury hand soap soared 800%, according to research from McKinsey. While makeup products were no longer selling like hotcakes, self-care products surged in popularity in 2020. Sales of skincare items, perfumes, candles, and other personal care products were on the rise. According to research from NPD Group, fragrance sales were up 45% in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020. What’s more, trends towards clean beauty and niche brands continued throughout the pandemic, and companies are beginning to focus more and more on innovation. 

In light of these developments, we were curious to see how the biggest beauty brands in Europe fared during this past year. To this end, we turned to LinkedIn to look at data and insights regarding employee count, new hires, job openings, and other trends for the top beauty and cosmetics brands in Europe. We looked at all beauty-related companies based in Europe with at least 500 employees, to get a feel for what this industry is experiencing right now, and where it might be heading. Keep reading for some highlights on what we’ve found. 

Wella, No7, FM World experience year-over-year growth of over 100% 

We began our research by looking at employment trends for the major beauty and cosmetics companies headquartered in Europe. By comparing LinkedIn employment numbers in May 2021 compared to May 2019, we were able to pinpoint some trends and insights on these companies. Immediately, three major brands stand out, namely Wella, No7, and FM Group.

Wella Company, a Switzerland-based, world-known hair care business recorded the biggest growth over the past two years, and the pandemic doesn’t seem to have slowed down its development - quite the contrary. Wella recorded a whopping 664% growth in the past two years, going from 255 employees on its LinkedIn page in May 2019, to 1,949 employees in May 2021. The company hired 1,538 new people over the past 24 months, including 53 senior managers. The massive growth probably has a lot to do with its spinoff from Coty, which sold its Wella majority stake in the fall of 2020 for $2.5 billion. Coty sold part of its stake in Wella to KKR, but continues to retain 40% of the brand’s portfolio. 

Another ‘winner’ on our list is No7 Beauty Company, a premium beauty brand owned by the Walgreens Boots Alliance. No7 was launched as a separate company in April 2021, and continues to expand. The company grew from 147 employees on LinkedIn in May 2019 to 377 employees in May 2021, marking a 156% growth over two years. No7 hired 254 new people during this time, including 4 senior managers. 

FM Group, based in Lisbon, Portugal, ticked off a 124% growth from May 2019 to May 2021, hiring 419 new people and reaching a number of 606 staff, according to data from LinkedIn. Poland-based FM Group HQ, which has a separate business page on LinkedIn, also marked a solid 26% growth, growing from 380 to 479 employees. The FM Group operates all around the world, selling high-end perfumes, as well as skincare, personal care, and household products. 

Big brands like L’Oreal, Avon, and Oriflame add thousands of new employees from 2019 to 2021

Looking at percentage growth, it’s clear that Wella and No7 sit at the top of our list in terms of business growth. However, if we look at absolute numbers, the big, household names in the industry slide into the spotlight. 

L’Oreal, the world’s largest cosmetics company, continued to expand unabated even during a global pandemic that affected retail like never before. The beauty juggernaut hired a whopping 25,935 new people in just two years, going from 68,143 employees in May 2019 to 73,259 in May 2021, according to LinkedIn. The company filled 200 senior management jobs during this time, as well. In the first quarter of 2021, L’Oreal had 3,002 open positions on LinkedIn, mostly concentrated on marketing, sales, operations, research, and business development. 

London-based Avon also had a good couple of years, despite the turmoil surrounding the pandemic in Europe. The company hired 11,548 new people from May 2019 to May 2021, closing this spring with 70,038 employees on LinkedIn and marking a 9.4% two-year growth. The company is still on a hiring spree, and had 355 open positions in Q1 2021, in areas like sales, marketing, and operations. 

Oriflame Cosmetics expanded 17% over the two years, adding 4,800 new hires in sales, operations, and business development, and reaching 21,189 employees on LinkedIn in May 2021. The company had 107 open positions in Q1 2021.

Other companies that continued to grow throughout the pandemic were Rituals, which hired 2,674 new people since May 2019, Yves Rocher, with 3,063 new hires, Beiersdorf, with 3,485 new hires, and L’OCCITANE Group, which hired 2,353 new people. 

Niche products and fragrances growing in popularity in 2020 and 2021

Over the past few years, some consumers have started shifting focus from big, established, long-standing brands like Avon and Oriflame, towards niche products and innovative new brands on the market. According to research, beauty lovers are increasingly interested in sustainability, choosing clean beauty products, and are willing to pay extra for quality ingredients, packaging, and innovation. 

Charlotte Tilbury, a luxury makeup and skincare brand that has become increasingly popular over the past years, is another flourishing beauty brand. The company added 696 new people since May 2019, marking a 17% growth and reaching 1,140 employees on its LinkedIn page. Charlotte Tilbury is still hiring people in divisions like arts and design, marketing, sales, research, as well as media and communications. The brand is well-known for its quality products and high-end design and packaging, and is well-loved among celebrities and makeup aficionados. 

We’ve already mentioned that perfumes stole the spotlight during the pandemic, and beyond. Historically, people in the industry referred to something known as the ‘lipstick index.’ The idea is that even during tough times, people will find solace and comfort in small luxuries, like lipstick. It would seem that, in 2021, fragrance has replaced lipstick, and this sub-segment of products is where people are finding comfort. 

Parfums Christian Dior added 2,468 new employees since May 2019, while LVMH Perfumes & Fragrances hired 1,261 new people during that same time. Rituals and L’OCCITANE, three brands focused on quality bath and body products, also continued to hire during the pandemic. Haircare and nail-related companies also managed to stay afloat, and even expand during 2020, as beauty salons were closed for most of the year, and people had to take care of their hair and nails at home. 

Marionnaud, L’OCCITANE, Revlon and LUSH experience drop in employment numbers during 2020 

While there are a lot of beauty brands that recorded positive employment numbers during 2020 and 2021, there were some brands who didn’t fare quite as well. There were various cosmetics companies that either downsized their staff or stopped recruiting during the pandemic. 

A lot of these brands relied heavily on in-store sales and offered a complex shopping experience that is hard to fully replicate online. LUSH, for instance, a sustainably-minded bath and body company based in the U.K., hired 1,134 new people from May 2019 to May 2021, yet recorded a -14% growth in employment. Overall, the company went from having 2,126 employees on LinkedIn in 2019, to 1,831 employees in 2021. 

L’OCCITANE is another brand that recorded a 2.2.% drop in employment numbers, even though it managed to hire 2,353 new people over the past two years. The brand went from having 4,490 LinkedIn employees in 2019 to 4,390 in 2021. 

Other brands that recorded a slowdown in recruiting during the pandemic include Marionnaud (-2%), Clarins (2.2%), Kenzo Parfums (-5%), Jo Malone (-8%), and Revlon Professional (-8%). The biggest losses were recorded by Liz Earle (-21%), Ales Groupe, a Paris-based hair care company (-26%), and Norway-based Vita Group AS (-44%).

To stay relevant, beauty brands must focus on digital innovation

Competition in the beauty industry is more intense than ever, with so many new brands and product popping up every month. To stay relevant and achieve customer loyalty, companies in the cosmetics industry need to focus on innovation and have a strong digital presence. While life is slowly returning to normal and customers are going back to in-store shopping, many of them will continue to shop online, getting their favorite products delivered to their door. And these customers will want to ensure that what they're buying online is authentic and high-quality. Unfortunately, the beauty industry is a major target for counterfeiters, which hurts both customers and brands. We have a solution.

engage™ is an all-in-one, innovative digital solution that helps cosmetics brands ensure the authenticity of their products, eliminate counterfeiting attempts, and enhance customer engagement. With a simple scan on their smartphone, beauty lovers can check the authenticity of products, while brands can use the web platform version to deploy marketing and remarketing campaigns, offers and loyalty programs, and get instant feedback from consumers. Get in touch with us to get a free demo of engage™, and find out how it can help you stay ahead of the competition.


We used data extracted from LinkedIn Sales Navigator from May 2019 through May 2021, including insights on employment numbers, new hires, distribution, and job openings. We only looked at cosmetics brands and business pages headquartered in Europe with a headcount of at least 500 employees. 

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